Senate Condemnation of MoveOn’s ‘Betray Us’ Ad Receives Mixed Coverage

On Thursday, a NewsBusters headline asked, "How Will Media Report Senate Vote Condemning MoveOn's ‘Betray Us' Ad?"

The answer is a mixed bag with some outlets such as the Washington Post giving the issue a surprising amount of focus, and others like CBS and ABC totally ignoring the matter.

From a print perspective, the Post certainly showed a lot of moxie with its front page piece entitled "MoveOn Unmoved By Furor Over Ad Targeting Petraeus":

Yesterday, an organization so small its 17 employees don't even have a central office, found itself under attack by not only President Bush, who said the ad was "disgusting," but also by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which passed a resolution 72 to 25 expressing its own outrage. Many Democrats blamed the group for giving moderate Republicans a ready excuse for staying with Bush and for giving Bush and his supporters a way to divert attention away from the war.

[...]

Many Democratic strategists were privately furious at the group for launching an attack on a member of the military rather than Bush, arguing that it gave Republicans a point on which to attack the Democrats and to rally around the administration's war policy. The displeasure underscores the uneasy alliance between MoveOn and the party.

[...]

Yesterday, almost two weeks after the ad ran, MoveOn found itself in an unenviable position: almost universally condemned by Senate Democrats and Republicans.

Once Republicans started circulating an amendment that would blast MoveOn for "impugning the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the U.S. Armed Forces," Democrats wrote their own version that criticized the MoveOn ad but also denounced Republicans for attacking the military record of Kerry in 2004 through the Swift boat ads.

Between the two measures, nearly every member of the Senate had repudiated MoveOn, including Democratic presidential contender Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Obama, who both voted for the Democratic version that did not include MoveOn's name but said there had been an "unwarranted personal attack" on Petraeus.

Pretty impressive reporting by the Post, although they could have been clearer about the fact that Clinton voted against the final amendment, and might not have waited until the last paragraph to address where these two leading Democrat presidential candidates stood on the matter.

However, this was significantly better than USA Today which completely ignored this vote. The Post coverage was also superior to the New York Times which ran a pretty good article on the subject Friday, but buried it on page A16. For its part, the Los Angeles times also ran a piece on this issue Friday that was buried inside the body of the main section.

As for television media, ABC and CBS completely ignored this vote. At the same time, their major competitor, NBC, did a pretty lousy job on Thursday evening's "Nightly News," but made some amends Friday.

Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory briefly mentioned the Senate vote during Thursday's "Nightly News," but mysteriously chose not to elaborate on the final tally:

GREGORY: The ad was debated on the Senate floor, with Democrats complaining that Republicans were using the ad to distract attention from the war.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Majority Leader): No one over here endorses the ad that was in that newspaper. None of us do. But we want to talk about the war. They want to talk about an ad in a newspaper.

Frankly, it seemed rather odd to bring up this issue without in any way addressing the outcome, and, instead, only airing a quote from someone on the losing side of the vote.

Maybe sensing his error, Gregory gave a more even report Friday:

GREGORY: The ad made Democrats uneasy enough that 22 Democratic senators voted with the Republicans to condemn it.

Mr. CHUCK TODD (NBC News Political Director): Democrats are a little nervous that Republicans were able to duck having to discuss the war, and instead were able to look like they were supporting the troops.

GREGORY: Some Democrats charged it was all a smoke screen.

Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): Since when are we the ad police who go after organizations by name?

GREGORY: But those Senate Democrats seeking the White House did not vote to condemn MoveOn.

Mr. TODD: MoveOn's influence in the Democratic Party is more of a role of rabble rouser, and so these candidates and Democrats are afraid to make them mad rather than hoping that they will help them.

Nice recovery, David.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.